The tech giant is hoping to merge human brains with AI.
Elon Musk, the CEO of private space exploration venture SpaceX and electric car company Tesla, has just backed another venture called Neuralink. Neuralink is in its infancy and has no public presence whatsoever, but hopes to merge the human brain with artificial intelligence, providing brain implants which can help humans merge with software and keep pace with developments in artificial intelligence.
As sci-fi as that sounds, Musk seems serious about the venture. He has hinted about Neuralink’s existence over the last half a year, and recently told a crowd in Dubai “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”
At the end of January, a fan asked Musk whether he’d be revealing a ‘neural lace’ any time soon. The term is a sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface. Musk replied “Maybe next month”. In medicine, neural implants have been used in limited capacity to help treat Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases. However, very few people in the world have any kind of brain implant, let alone complex ones. One reason for this should be obvious: Brain surgery is incredibly risky and dangerous, and most don’t attempt such an operation unless every other option has been exhausted.
The dangers and uncertainty of brain modification hasn’t stopped silicon valley though, where a surge of interest in the field has seen light recently. Kernel, a startup created by Braintree co-founder Bryan Johnson, is also trying to enhance human brain function with more than $100 million of Johnson’s own money invested in the project. He has confirmed Musk’s involvement in Neuralink.
“We know if we put a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, that we can ameliorate symptoms of Parkinson’s,” said Johnson. “This has been done for spinal cord pain, obesity, anorexia… what hasn’t been done is the reading and writing of neural code.
“People are only going to be amenable to the idea [of an implant] if they have a very serious medical condition they might get help with,” contested Blake Richards, a neuroscientist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
source: Wall Street Journal